Irbe suits up for Sabres nearly 10 years after last NHL game


When Michal Neuvirth left Tuesday’s game against the San Jose Sharks with a lower-body injury, they turned to Jhonas Enroth to play between the pipes. Enroth did a great job to lead Buffalo to a 3-1 victory, but the Sabres had a backup plan if Enroth had gotten hurt as well.

Buffalo signed 47-year-old goalie coach Arturs Irbe to a professional tryout contract and he got into gear. He’s a veteran of 568 NHL games, but he hadn’t played in the NHL since April 4, 2004 and his last professional contest was in 2007.

“(Sabres head coach Ted Nolan and I) started scrambling, looking for options and it’s a snow day, No. 1. And No. 2, it’s Independence Day for Latvia, for our tiny country today,” Irbe recounted, per the Sabres’ website. “Ted said, “Arch, why don’t you be our security net just in case?’

“I said, ‘Ted, I haven’t donned a uniform in seven years.’

“He said, ‘It’s doesn’t matter. Now you will.’

“I went about my business, started second period and thought I’m just going to be on standby.”

Irbe was prepared to go in if it had come to that. He spent his time on the bench visualizing what he would do if called upon. Of course it never came to that, so Irbe will stay at 568 career games played. At least for now.